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Have you let your finances slip over the last few months? There are a few simple, yet effective ways to improve your finances that can make a huge difference in the long run.

1. Start at the beginning

If you’re serious about getting your finances in order you need to lay all of your ‘cards’ on the table. Open every single financial statement—bank, credit card, and mortgage statements. You will have a better chance at improving your finances if you know where you currently stand with your income and expenses. Consider signing up for online banking if you haven’t already. You can manage your finances 24/7 at home or on the go.

2. Don’t go Cold Turkey with a budget that’s too tough

Develop a budget or spending plan that actually works for you based on where you are right now.  Don’t go “cold turkey” by cutting too much at once.  Instead, try to gradually reduce spending in critical areas. Sudden cuts to costs can often backfire in the long term because it increases the chances of big financial splurges.

3. Make this the year you tackle your credit card debt

Control your credit, don’t let it control you. Every time you pay off a card with a 15 per cent interest rate, you get a 15 per cent return on your money. There are many providers that offer a low or zero per cent introductory offer for the first 6 to 12 months. If you can find a good deal, move your high-rate debt to that new card and whenever possible, pay more than the minimum repayment required.

4. Remember that it’s the little things that count

Memberships and ongoing contracts may only seem like small expenses, but these monthly charges add up over time. Change your mobile phone plan or get rid of the landline account unless you absolutely need it. Reconsider Pay TV and look at ways to cut back on utilities such as electricity.

5. Know Your Credit Rating

Get your credit rating by going to veda.com.au. If you have a poor credit rating, the two best ways to improve it are to pay your bills on time and push yourself to reduce your credit card balances. A good credit rating increases your serviceability, making it easier to get a better interest rate.

6. Get ahead in your mortgage

Extra payments are effective at any time of the year but can be less painful after receiving a tax refund or bonus. Even small amounts that are contributed to your mortgage will add up over time.